BBC Showcase 2011 – Drama in Brighton


It’s the final day of the annual BBC Showcase held in Brighton (for the last time, as it turns out, with Liverpool being next year’s destination) which saw another day packed with screenings the last ‘official presentation’ from the BBC drama department. It’s been a strong year already from an output standpoint as was pointed out by the head of BBC Drama. There’s nothing to disagree with here as all you have to do is remember that 2010 was the year of Sherlock, Upstairs Downstairs and a new season of Spooks (MI5). Before anyone says, “…what about Downton Abbey“, remember, that was from a re-juvinated ITV and not the Beeb. After attending the presentation, it’s no doubt that 2011-2012 will be another stellar year for BBC drama output as evidenced by the new and returning commissions….

Drama

  • Zen – based on the novels by Michael Dibdin, the series stars Rufus Sewell as Aurelio Zen, the Italian detective who has made a career out of placing honesty above any personal advancement. Tania, played brilliantly by a stunning Caterina Murina, brings passion back to Zen’s investigations set against the spectacular Italian countryside. It’s pretty apparent from the first moments of episode one, Zen has made a few enemies over the years with his honest approach to his job, which becomes pretty clear when Zen is assigned to an old murder case. FYI, the series is set for a Summer 2011 premiere on PBS stations nationwide as part of the Masterpiece Mystery series. Note one recognizable face when you watch, that of Ben Miles (Patrick, Coupling)
  • Silk – written by a former barrister, Peter Moffat, this series is a tightly produced legal drama which digs into the lives and cases of a group of top-end London barristers. Starring Maxine Peake (ShamelessDinnerladiesLittle Dorrit) and Rupert Penry-Jones (MI5, Whitechapel, The 39 Steps), Silk has all the markings of a traditional legal drama. No word yet as to any American plans for the series but, rumor is, PBS’ Masterpiece will be picking this up.
  • Mad Dogs – a stellar cast including Philip Glennister, John Simm, Marc Warren and Max Beesley. At the beginning of the presentation, it was described as Fargo meets Sexy Beast. At the time, I hadn’t seen any of the episodes yet so that pitch seemed a bit off. Having now seen the entire series, that’s not far off at all.

Others in the cue for over the next several months, Doctor Who and the second season of the Matt Smith era, a new season of Hustle, a second set of Upstairs Downstairs and Luther, starring Golden Globe nominated Idris Elba. As I’m sure you’re aware, the Doctor comes to America for a couple of episodes set in the Utah desert with the new season split in to two halves this year. What does that mean? Two cliff-hanging season enders in one season, of course. The series will not disappoint Doctor Who fans, Steven Moffat fans or BBC drama fans this season. Stay tuned for final thoughts from Brighton and BBC Showcase.

  • Sandra Hutchinson

    Where did my favorite PBS shows go? I refer to ZEN and MI 5.

    • @Sandra: Unfortunately, there were only three Zen programs produced. It was cancelled after the first season of three episodes by the BBC so there will be no more. With regards to MI-5, depending on where you are located, the 10th and final season will air on PBS stations nationwide beginning in April 2012. Let me know if you happen to be in the North Texas area and I can give you upcoming KERA plans for MI5 going forward. Billl